tv Washington Week PBS October 5, 2012 8:00pm-8:30pm PDT
gwen: this guy turned us down, so the rest of us are going to have to talk about the big debate and today's big job numbers, tonight on "washington week." >> the president has a view very similar to the view he had when he ran four years ago, that a bigger government, spending more, taxing more, regulating more, if you, will trickle-down government would work. >> governor romney has a perspective that says if he cut taxes skewed towards the wealthy and roll back regulations we'll be better off. gwen: 90 minutes later, even democrats gave the debate win to roll any. but after the dust settled, what was true and what wasn't? >> it is not possible to come up with enough loopholes and deductions to only affect high-income individuals to
avoid either raising the deficit or burdening the middle class. it's math. >> i'm not in favor of a $5 trillion tax cut. my plan is not to put in place any tax cut that will add to the deficit. gwen: and will today's improved jobs numbers change the political landscape again? debating, peter baker of "the new york times," dan balz of the "washington post." jeanne cummings of block berg news, and john dickerson of slate magazine and cbs news. >> award winning reporting and analysis, covering history as it happens. live in our nation's capital, this is "washington week" with gwen ifill, produced in association with "national journal." corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by --
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additional funding is provided by the annenberg foundation, the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again, live from washington, moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. the first debate is behind us and the presidential race is tighter than ever. for different reasons, both candidates returned to the campaign trail this week with renewed vigor. >> you may know that a couple of nights ago we had a debate. you may have got an chance to see that. i got the chance to ask the president some questions i think people across the country have wanted to ask the president. which is why it was that when america needed jobs to badly he was pushing for obama care. >> my opponent has been trying to do a two-step and reposition and -- got an extreme makeover.
governor romney plans to let wall street run wild again but he's going to bring down the hammer on "sesame street." it makes perfect sense. gwen: the morning the president got good news on the jobs front as the unemployment rate dropped if 8 .1 to 7 .8%. news so good that some romney supportsers even suggested the numbers must be cooked. let's start with the debate. we'll walk you through some of the numbers you heard and some you didn't to explain where the election stands tonight. first number, that 7 .8%. this is thousand candidates responded. >> so it looks like employment is getting better. the truth is if the same share of people were participating on the work force today as on the day the president got elected, our unemployment rate would be
around 11%. >> today's news should give us some encouragement. it shouldn't be an excuse for the other side to try to talk down the economy. just to try to score a few political points. gwen: on balance, 34 days out, what is the bigger deal? the worse deal? a bad debate or a good job number, dan? >> if president obama can turn around perceptions about the economy that ultimately will be a bigger deal. incumbent presidents have suffered through bad fist debates and been a table bounce back. if you have a really lousy economy it's tough to go against that. the interesting thing is that the obama campaign for months after one weak jobs number after another have always discounted the unemployment number. i think today they want people to look at that and they want people to think we've gone through at least a psychological barrier.
there's been some evidence since the conventions that people do feel a little bit better about the commiff. that was helping president obama until the denver debate. now this race is tight and very much in flux. gwen: let's talk about the trend lines. the president can still claim 31 months of unsbrurmented job growth but mitt romney just made that point about how if different things were true this would be 11%. does he have a point? >> well, you can take statistics and play with them all you want. yes, if people weren't leaving, if people weren't dropping out of the job search process then there would be more people in it. ok. but what's important is the number. and the number is good for obama in the psychological way and also if you look historically. what we've just been through in the past year is one of the -- the changes are tiny, but one
of the longest declines in the unemployment rate since 1984, so that's a very good trend for the president and public opinion polls have been sending these mixed signals. the most recent "wall street journal" poll had the wrong track number sky high, 60%. but of those who felt like the economy was improving and would continue to get better, it was like 54%. so something has been going on out there in the minds of the public in terms of their perception of the economy and this gives them one more reason to at least stay in that direction. gwen: barring -- if there had not been a debate that occurred on wednesday night, perhaps these numbers would have seemed like they were ceiling things off, this election was over because that was the trend line we were on. romney was having bad week after bad week then he had a spectacularly good night. does that change things? >> there are some things it
definitely changes. first is that republicans were just waiting to roar. he could have named names from the phone call -- phone book and he -- they would have gone crazy. remember how it was in the primaries? people would grudgingly talk about their support. now they love mitt romney. why? he behaved like the person they were worried about. he was much more moderate in the debate. newt gingrich used to say he was a massachusetts moderate. but he was more moderate in this debate and also in terms of the things he would short. -- support. they loved that he used that to beat up on the president. that worked well for him. in these instant polls that came out, undecided voters, when cnn and cbs did polls and a couple of other focus groups,
romney won decisively over the president. romney won decisively and also the president lost decisively. gwen: it wasn't just that romney won. so many democrats were very unhappy that the president didn't. >> some of the harshest reviews of the president were from democrats. they were very disappointed that he didn't take the fight to mitt romney. that he didn't raise all of the issues that his campaign has been raise fger months. beating down mitt romney on bane capital, on outsourcing on the 47% video and on taxes. what his people will tell you is that in some ways they had expected that to come up as part of the moderate ore's questions. the president might look too cutting. i think they didn't anticipate how much of a turnoff among their own supporters. gwen: the 47%, the famous 47% secret video. mitt romney saying he didn't
need to worry about that 47% who were victims, depending on government subsidies. he didn't respond to that. he wasn't asked about it. barack obama didn't bring it up, but the next day in an interview with sean hannity on fox news, this is what he said. >> well, clearly in a campaign with hundreds if not thousands of speeches and question and answer sessions, now and then you're going to say something that doesn't come out right. in this case i said something that's completely wrong. gwen: completely wrong is not the same as inelegantly stated. was that what he was prepared to say at the debate but never came out? >> i think so. i think in some ways it was a loss to roll any that he didn't get the question because he was so ready for it. they had telegraphed that as well as other things before that that he was ready and prepared to take that question.
i think they would have loved to have done it in fronts of the millions watching that debate, to be able to clear that plate. gwen: another number which i think if you were an average viewer that you would leave a little confused about was the $5 trillion dispute. what is true, dan? >> if you watched that debate you would have no idea what was true. gwen: even i get confused. >> he wants to cut tax rates a significant amount and the estimate of the value of those tax cuts would be is $5 trillion. what he's trying to say is that he would make up for a lot of that revenue by eliminating deductions and loop holes and tax expenditures and things like that but he has never described in detail that other piece of it and he didn't at
the debate. all the president said basically was your math doesn't add up by never forced him to answer that question. if the $5 trillion isn't your plan, what is your plan? i suspect we'll hear more about that. >> a lot of people said governor romney wasn't telling the truth when he said his plan doesn't add up to $5 trillion. it's nonan untruth. what it is is a tremendous lack of detail on romney's part. what he's saying essentially is i'm going to lose 10 pounds and i'm going to eat this 12-pound cake. he might not be able to do that. it would be extraordinary. that's the thing he hasn't answered. it means a lot of how are you going to do this? the other way a lot of that would be made up is through economic growth. this is an ideological battle
between the parties. romney and republicans believe that economic activity will create growth, which will create more tax revenue. but the clip you showed from the president was the one saying basically how do you make this add up? gwen: he said he's going to make some of it add up by cutting pbs, which is 1/100 of the federal government's budget. >> the president was specific too about a $ 0 billion break. the things they're talking about are so specific you need a magnifying glass to find them. >> i think some of this is defined plan. when the president talks about $5 trillion, he's talking about five tax breaks that romney has already promised so it's the estate tax plus a.m.t. plus keeping bush, plus lowering
rates plus cutting capital gains taxes. you put them together, they add up to 5 trillion but in romney's mind his plan may be just saving the bush tax cuts or one of these five. >> what obama has done is landfalled onto a study that says because the math doesn't add up according to the experts, therefore what romney is going to do is raise taxes on the middle class. he goes around saying that as if it was romney's intent. that's not romney's intent. romney god -- got to say the president is the one who's not telling the truth because he's implying that i would do that. >> a romney advisor last week said we have two goals. one is deficit reduction, one is tax cuts. if tax cuts get in the way, we'll do deficit reduction.
gwen: there's another number. $716 million to deal with medicare but it's coming from different places and going to different places and therefore they find -- kind of ended up in a draw. >> for the president's health care plan, in order to fund it they assumed savings over 10 years of $716 billion for medicare. mitt romney called that a cut in medicare as if it was a cut in beneficiaries. it's meant to come from providers. however, what romney was saying is that if you take that much from providers, some of them are going to stop taking medicare parents. the trick for him is that paul ryan, his running mate, also assumed the same $716 billion. gwen: and i believe romney's answer to that was i'm the candidate. >> i'm the boss. we're going to put that money back into medicare.
gwen: going into these debates we were all probably guilty of setting the expectations bar and it was pretty high for president obama. i think the polls before showed him like 51% thought he was going to win. 29% thought romney was going to win. compare this to previous incumbents. was it an incumbent's curse at the first debate? >> i think there's some of that but in contrast to some of those previous cases where an incumbent had problems in the first debate. ronald reagan in 1984 lost his train of thought if his first statement. gwen: on the pacific coast highway. >> right. and it gave rise to questions as -- if he was too old. this was a case that i thought from start to finish governor romney was the dominant character in the debate.
he was much more forceful so in that sense its it was a much more decisive case of somebody winning and somebody losing. >> there wasn't that single moment that memorable you're no jack kennedy kind of putdown. it was very strong substantive. in fact, the president said this was a terrific debate. he might not have thought that later whether he got to reviews. >> if you look at romney's opening statements, he touched all the things he needed to. he talked about voters in ohio and nevada. i feel your pain. gwen: told stories. >> told stories. he did the five things he's running on. he talked about the president's past. respectfully said it wasn't going in the right direction. then 0 minutes later after a good cut and thrust between the two of them he delivered a near-flawless closing argument as if he were reading from a teleprompter -- he wasn't.
the president's closing argument was meandering. >> i don't think it was all lost for the president. i agree with everything that's been said about governor romney. he had a great night. gwen: he came to play. >> that's right. he practiced and took time off from the road. it paid off big time. he solidifyed that base and boy, did he have to do that. gwen: and he closed that likeability gap for a lot of people. >> yes, but what the president did was -- he did do some subtle things and when you think about who are the persuadeable voters out there, he spoke to them. so while romney was on a lot of defense, the president was mentioning hiring teachers, talking about preexisting conditions, talking about pell grants. he's talking to the swing voters so it wasn't a total loss for him. gwen: here's what the president was not talking about. the gender wars we've been
talking about so much. immigration. gay marriage or gay rights, the housing bubble collapse, the auto bailout, which he alluded to a couple of times but didn't take the credit. it seemed like there were lots of missed opportunities for talking about what he had done and what he would do. >> he was asked what is the difference between you two on social security? a very big hot button issue and he said there isn't that big a difference. he missed an opportunity to say, actually, governor romney's running mate has a plan to put some funds into investment accounts. >> one of the reasons that incumbent presidents in their first debates have trouble is because they've not been subjected to the kind of close-in combat that you see in a debate. when you're president you are surrounded by people who bakley
-- basically tell you you're doing really well. there have been a number of incidents where you hear about debate prep for an incumbent president not going well. gwen: is it because he's busy being president? >> there may be and one of his campaign people said that, that he'd not had much time to prepare. gwen: we thought they were lowering expectations. turns out they were right on the mark. >> but the other quick point is governor romney left a lot on the table that is going to come back in the subsequent debates and it will be litigated in a much more fierce way than it was on wednesday night. >> the third debate is going to matter more than the first debate. it's the last one people see, although there is early voting. but by this point a month from now we may not be talking about this. >> you had not only the lack of specificity. it becomes a question of who do
you trust. the budget is going to have to be cut and hard choices are going to have to be made. they both believe it. the question is who do you trust? the president talked about governor romney's screlt plans. that notice of secrecy showed up in focus groups. it's why when they talk about governor romney not releasing his tax returns -- gwen: which didn't come up. >> no. what governor romney is hiding is the argument that the democrats wants to be talking about. >> if the president had one good line it was on that issue. he basically said if mitt romney health care plan and tax plan is so great for the middle class, why don't we know about it? gwen: did romney in the end earn the second look he needed? he was on the precipice of a bad storyline forming. did he get the second look he needed? >> i think he certainly did. let's say if the debate would
be going the other way we'd be talking about how it's virtually impossible for governor romney to win. instead, we're talking about how the polls are tight, he outperformed the president. he got a second look. we're still 30-odd days away. there's a lot that can happen but there's no question he did everything he needed to do in that debate. >> and he held that base. because that base was about to run. gwen: or stay home. >> the money was on the verge of moving. the talk in town, republicans were all over his campaign with criticism. and when there was a focus group done by drat dan greenberg and he found that some independents or some on the fence moved, they were the leaning republicans and they moved. he brought his base together and got himself back in the game. >> a number of people who watched this debate was roughly 70 million. more than watched mccain and obama four years ago irks as
storied as that race seem to be and the number of people who watched the republican convention and watched him give his speech was around 20 million something. gwen: way more than were able to watch the president the day polling the debate when he seemed to get his voice back on the stump and democrats watching said who's that guy? >> his line was who was mitt romney last night. i don't recognize that mitt romney. but they also didn't recognize that barack obama. >> mitt romney had to be aggressive with the president and also had to remain likable. ben is, in -- again, in looking at those polls -- gwen: a temperament issue. >> and they're in conflict. because when you're aggressive you may not be that attractive. and that was something the president was worried about. so in these insta polls, the cbs one, romney's numbers do
you care about a person like me was 40 -- 30 before the debate. after the debate it was in the 60's. so he made up ground with undecided voters on this key question of do you care about me? there is this pool of obama 2008 voters disappointed with obama but not ready to hand the treens romney yet. if they start to think he cares about them from a performance like that and if he can match that with behavior over the next 30 days, that's a combination they think gets him to the white house. gwen: are they sitting in dark rooms this weekend crunching those numbers and trying to figure out what to do? >> i think from the moment that debate ended, particularly on the president's side, they're trying to figure out what we do next. we'll have the vice presidential debates next week, which will be interesting. does paul ryan defend his plan
or says no, governor romney is the nominee, not me. that debate will be very interesting. gwen: we'll be watching all of it. thank you, everyone. the conversation can continue online on our "washington week" webcast extra at pbs.org/"washington week." keep up with daily developments, including next week's coverage of the vice president presidential debate. we'll see you all right here next week on "washington week." good night. >> funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> this rock has never stood still. since 1875 we've been there for our clients through good times and bad. when their needs changed, we were there to meet them.
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